Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, Madame de La Tour and the defence of Fort St.Jean, 1645

Fort La Tour

In 1631 Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour built a fort here, one of the earliest centres of the French fur trade with the region's Aboriginal peoples. During her husband's absence in 1645, Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, Madame de La Tour, unsuccessfully defended the fort against their chief rival, Charles de Menou d'Aulnay, who took it in the name of the king. The French continued to trade on the Saint John River until 1758. A few years later, the Simmonds, Hazen and White Company established a flourishing trade on this site, which eventually grew into the city of Saint John. (Parks Canada)

Fort La Tour National Historic Site of Canada is an archaeological site containing the remains of a 17th-century fortified fur-trading post in Saint John, New Brunswick. It sits on a grassy knoll on Portland Point, at the mouth of the Saint John River. Strategically located, the fort enjoyed uninterrupted viewscapes up the river and across the Bay of Fundy. Since the 19th century, the surrounding area has become industrialized and is now characterized by a series of wharves and structures lining the shore. Official recognition refers to the footprint of the fort.

Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, Madame de La Tour defending Fort St.Jean. Engraving by C.W. Jeffries.

Fort La Tour was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1923 because: it was erected by Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, Governor of Acadia, in 1631; it was one of the earliest centres of the French fur trade with the region’s Aboriginal peoples; because of the heroic but unsuccessful defence by Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, Sieur de La Tour’s wife, against an attack by de La Tour’s rival, Charles de Menou d’Aulnay.In 1631, Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour, Governor of Acadia and fur-trading entrepreneur, established a fortified fur trading post named Fort Sainte-Marie, at the mouth of the Saint John River. Located on ground traditionally used by First Nations peoples, the fort became one of the earliest centres of the French fur trade in the region. Aboriginal traders carried furs down the Saint John River to trade at the fort for goods such as beads, iron spear points and arrow heads. It also provided a strategically located, fortified stronghold against La Tour’s rival, Charles de Menou d’Aulnay, whose base was at Port-Royal on the opposite side of the Bay of Fundy. In 1645, d’Aulnay attacked the fort during Sieur de La Tour’s absence. Sieur de La Tour’s wife, Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, led a defence of the garrison for four days, until finally surrendering to d’Aulnay. After taking possession of the fort, d’Aulnay reneged on the conditions of surrender and executed the members of the garrison. Jacquelin’s bravery, and her death while in d’Aulnay’s custody, have made her a Canadian heroine. The fort itself was destroyed at an unknown date in the 17th or early-18th century.

Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1923; 1956; 1989; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2003.

Meeting of Francoise Marie Jacquelin and La Tour. C.W. Jefferies.

Françoise-Marie Jacquelin was born and baptized on 18 July 1621 in Nogent-le-Rotrou. According to Charles de Menou d'Aulnay, Jacquelin was the daughter of an actress in Paris. According to others, she was the daughter of a doctor, or of a business woman. In 1640 she sailed from France to Port Royal to marry de la Tour. They settled at Fort la Tour at the mouth of the Saint John River. Jacquelin quickly became involved in the Acadian Civil War, her husband's struggle with Charles de Menou d'Aulnay for control of Acadia. She evaded a blockade d'Aulnay had established and returned to France to plead her husband's case to the king. She returned to Acadia with a warship laden with supplies for Fort la Tour. In 1645, while la Tour was in Boston, d'Aulnay attacked the fort. Jacquelin assumed command of the garrison there, refused to surrender, and led a pitched three-day battle to defend the fort. On the fourth day, with the walls of the fort breached and having taken heavy casualties, Jacquelin surrendered. D'Aulnay executed the surviving soldiers. Madame de La Tour was forced to watch the hangings. She died three weeks later.

JACQUELIN, FRANÇOISE (Françoise-Marie), Acadian heroine, wife of Charles de Saint-Étienne de La Tour; baptized 18 July 1621 in Nogent-le-Rotrou, France, daughter of Jacques Jacquelin, medical doctor, and Hélène Lerminier; d. 1645 at Fort La Tour (also called Fort Sainte-Marie).

Little is known about Françoise Jacquelin’s life before 31 Dec. 1639, the day in Paris she signed a marriage contract with Charles de La Tour in the presence of his La Rochelle agent, Guillaume Desjardins Du Val. She sailed for Port Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), where the ceremony was performed the following year. The couple settled at La Tour’s fort, situated at the mouth of the Saint John River. Here she made her home and gave birth to a son.

Almost immediately after her marriage, she became her husband’s courageous supporter in a struggle with Charles de Menou d’Aulnay for power in Acadia. In 1642 she evaded d’Aulnay’s blockade of the Saint John River and made her way to France, where she successfully appealed against the king’s order that her husband be arrested and brought to France on charges of disloyalty. She was given permission to take back a warship with supplies for Fort La Tour at Saint John harbour. Two years later, she again sailed for France, this time to find La Tour completely discredited at court owing to charges brought by d’Aulnay. Despite the fact that she herself was forbidden to leave France, Mme de La Tour borrowed money from friends and escaped to England, where she bought supplies and chartered a ship to carry her to the Saint John River. The trip lasted six months, the ship’s commander, Capt. Bailey, having stopped on the Grand Banks to fish. Off Cap de Sable, the vessel was stopped by d’Aulnay but Mme de La Tour hid in the hold and escaped detection. When the vessel landed in Boston, she sued the captain both for unnecessary delay and for not taking her to the Saint John River as he had agreed. With the £2,000 she received in settlement, Mme de La Tour hired three ships to run the blockade d’Aulnay was maintaining at Saint John harbour and arrived home in the closing days of 1644.

Early in the new year, d’Aulnay launched an unsuccessful attack on Fort La Tour. Soon afterwards La Tour, cut off from supplies from France, elected to go to Boston and seek aid from the English. Word that he had left the fort and that it was now garrisoned by but 45 men was carried to d’Aulnay by deserters. He promptly decided to attack again and arrived at the Saint John River on 13 April with a force of some 200 men. His emissary, carrying the summons to surrender, was promptly dismissed by Mme de La Tour, who had assumed command of the fort and was determined to fight if she must. The ensuing battle raged for three days and has been termed by the late Dr. W. F. Ganong the most dramatic event in the history of New Brunswick.

Although casualties were relatively heavy, the action continued. By Easter Sunday – the fourth day of the siege – d’Aulnay’s bombardment had knocked out a portion of the fort’s parapet and he had been able to land a force of men with two cannons. It is said that a Swiss mercenary at the fort – Hans Vaner (or Vannier) – allowed this land force to creep up to the walls of the fortification while its defenders were resting and holding Easter service. The noise of the storming of the palisade alerted the garrison and they rushed to defend their post. Hand-to-hand clashes ensued within the confines of the fort itself, and losses on both sides were heavy. Finally, d’Aulnay called off his men and swore that he “would give quarter to all” if Mme de La Tour would capitulate. With her small garrison reduced by casualties, the fort heavily damaged, and both food and ammunition running low, Mme de La Tour concluded that her position was hopeless.

She ordered her men to surrender.The events that then transpired are shrouded in bias and personal animus, and made all the more confusing by scholastic prejudice. Consequently, we may never have a clear view of subsequent happenings. However, relatively unbiased accounts, such as that of Nicolas Denys, agree in substance. We are told that, once in possession of the fort, d’Aulnay went back on his word, disregarded the terms of capitulation, and ordered the arrest of the La Tour garrison. A gallows was erected at once and all of the soldiers captured at Fort La Tour hanged, except for one man – probably André Bernard – who agreed to be the executioner of his comrades. Madame de La Tour was forced to watch the hangings with a rope around her own neck. She herself died there three weeks later.

This gallant woman had spent but five years in Acadia, yet her position in the history of this country is assured. Hers was the distinction of being the first European woman to have lived, to have made a home, and to have raised a family in New Brunswick. Neither the perils of the sea, the dangers of war, nor the horrors of a long siege could still her courage. Here, truly, was the most remarkable woman in Acadia’s early history. George MacBeath.

Françoise-Marie JACQUELIN (1621 - 1645)

"This gallant woman had spent but five years in Acadia, yet her position in the history of this country is assured. Hers was the distinction of being the first European woman to have lived, to have made a home, and to have raised a family in New Brunswick. Neither the perils of the sea, the dangers of war nor the horrors of a long siege could still her courage. Here, truly, was the most remarkable woman in Acadia’s early history."

Françoise Marie Jacquelin was baptized on 18 July 1621 at Notre-Dame parish, Nogent-le-Rotrou, ancient province of Perche (present day département of L’Eure-et-Loir).

The excerpt which follows was entitled "She Was Forced to Watch Him Hang 40 of her Men with a Lasso Around her Neck", is one of a series of short texts written in English by Father Clarence d'Entremont and published in the Yarmouth Vanguard on 13 June 1989.

"She was Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, originally from a place called Nogent-le-Rotrou, in France, the daughter of a doctor by the name of Jacques Jacquelin. Late in 1639, Charles de La Tour asked his secretary and administrator Desjardins to go to France to get him a wife. He came back the following year with Mademoiselle Jacquelin. Both, herself and La Tour, were complete strangers to each other. Shortly after her arrival in early Spring, the wedding took place at Fort St-Louis, which stood on the Sand Hill, at Villagedale, Shelburne County; it was performed by the Capucin Fathers, with a large audience, including Claude de La Tour, father of Charles, and his wife.

Charles de La Tour, at the time, was Governor of Acadia. He had shared this title with Issac de Razilly, the one who founded La Have in 1632. Razilly died in 1636. He had designated as his successor the Sieur de Poincy, who had been his administrator. But what happened is that one of his relatives, the very ambitious and haughty Charles d'Aulnay, Sieur de Menou and de Charnisay, seized the power and brought the colony from La Have to Port Royal.

He was not satisfied of sharing the administration of Acadia with Charles de La Tour and vowed to trample him even to death, if necessary. Charles de La Tour had two forts, the one at Villagedale, just mentioned, and one at the mouth of the Saint John river, New Brunswick, Fort Ste-Marie. In the Fall of 1642, d'Aulnay, on his way from France to Port Royal, taking advantage of the absence of La Tour and his wife, stopped at Fort St-Louis, got the best of its guards and set it on fire; all was consumed, including the church that the Recollet Fathers had here. It was the first and largest of the forts that Cardinal Richelieu, Secretary of State in France, had asked to be erected in what was then New France, including Acadia.

Although he had made of La Tour a lame duck, the greedy d'Aulnay had not yet crushed him to his satisfaction. La Tour still had a fortified stronghold at the mouth of the St. John River, where he had some 50 soldiers. After burning Fort St-Louis, d'Aulnay stayed a few months at Port Royal to take fresh supplies, and proceeded to Fort Ste-Marie. He put the fort under siege. La Tour was in the fort at the time, ready to defend himself at the first assault from the enemy. But d'Aulnay chose to block all entrances to the fort and reduce the occupants to starvation.

But lo and behold! There were two months that d'Aulnay was anchored at the mouth of the river, when arrived from France the Saint Clement, a vessel of 120 tons, that Desjardins had equipped for La Tour. La Tour managed to get on board. They went to Boston for help and came back with four other armed vessels, to which d'Aulnay was no match; instead, he speeded towards Port Royal. The siege had lasted close to five months.

Charles d'Aulnay was too proud to admit that he had been frustrated and too eager to get rid of La Tour to call it quits. All this time, the most faithful and courageous Françoise-Marie Jacquelin was giving a very precious helping hand to her husband. In Boston, she had so much success that an author tells us that when d'Aulnay learned about it, "his rage knew no bounds." He wrote an insolent and abusive letter to Governor Winthrop.

When Françoise-Marie came back to the fort at St. John River, her husband left for Boston on business with seven of his men, leaving the fort in her hands. Charles d'Aulnay learning of it, left immediately for the St. John River. Here is what happened, as it has been told by Nicolas Denys, an Acadian pioneer of the time: "(Lady La tour), after having sustained for there days and three nights all the attacks of d'Aulnay, and after having compelled him to withdraw beyond range of her cannon, was in the end obliged to surrender on the fourth day, which was Easter Day (April 16, 1645), having been betrayed by a Swiss who was then on guard (Hans Vaner), while she was making her men rest, hoping for some respite. The Swiss yielded to bribery by the men of D'Aulnay and allowed them to mount to the assault, which was again resisted for some time by the Lady commandant at the head of her men. She only yielded at the last extremity and under the condition that they said d'Aulnay should give quarter to all.

Unfaithful to his words, the barbarian d'Aulnay asked which one of the captives wanted to have his life spared by hanging the others. A certain André Bernard came forward, choosing to be the hangman of his companions in order to save his skin. The nauseating and cruel d'Aulnay put a rope around Françoise-Marie's neck, set her up probably on a platform, tied her fast to a post, in front of a number of scaffolds to which mounted one after the other 40 of the soldiers who had so valiantly defended the fort of their master, under the command of his wife, until all 40 of them were hung by the neck till they died. Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, strong of character as she was, could not bear the sight of such a slaughter; she died of horror and grief a few days later at the age of 23. She is known in history as "The Heroine of Acadia."

This is one of the saddest episodes in the history of Acadia. Even the Expulsion, which was to take place 110 to 115 years later, inhuman as it was, we do not find such cruelties as that of hanging innocent people. The English, indeed, hung two Acadians and three Indians in Boston, as I said in Sketch No. 5, but it was after they were tried and found guilty of piracy. Did the Indians go that far? A very ancient author wrote, referring to d'Aulnay: "To dishonesty he adds an excess of barbarity which would be hard to believe, if it was said of an Indian."

Françoise-Marie Jacquelin est une héroïne acadienne qui mourut possiblement tragiquement à Fort La Tour en Acadie en mai 1645.

Fille de Jacques Jacquelin, docteur en médecine, et d’Hélène Lerminier, demeurant rue Bourg-le-Comte à Nogent-le-Rotrou, Françoise-Marie Jacquelin est née et baptisée en France le 18 juillet 1621 dans la paroisse Notre-Dame-des -Marais à Nogent-le-Rotrou située dans le diocèse de Chartres et l'ancienne province du Perche.[

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